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Crisis Time: Should We Bomb BushCo?

Questionnaires often (usually?) reveal far more about the questionner than they do about the respondent. As is obvious from the title of this post, asking seemingly neutral questions creates a framework in which opinions are formed, and which, if asked in political contexts, determine (or, more likely, mold) public opinion.

My eyes were assaulted when Capitol Hill Blue fully loaded into my browser: I beheld one of the most frightening, horrific, and ugly pictures Ugly Nightmare I've ever seen. It was a link to a questionnaire about "Hillary or Condi in 2008?". While there I came across another, even more interesting questionnaire.

There's a whole science of asking questions, and it's fairly easy to get the answers you want by phrasing questions a particular way. It's too easy, in fact. One method is called push polling where the goal is to plant thoughts in the respondent's head so that they'll reach the desired opinion. ("Would you vote for Fred Smurd if you found out he raped his son, embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the taxpayers, beat his wife, eats puppies, and called your wife a cunt?") But more subtle methods exist to frame questions in order to manipulate opinion.

Here's a great example of subtle push polling from wingnut central's mothership. The topic:
Crisis Time: Should We Bomb Iran?
Here's the first question:

Do you believe U.S. efforts to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program are working?

This question single-handedly frames the issue with a glaringly obvious and biased premise: it assumes that the US is called upon to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program. (Actually, it makes the even deeper assumption that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program. (Which it may very well have, but it's still an assumption.)) That's the given, the place from which all further discussion begins. It also begins a path of inquiry that logically leads to a certain conclusion: well, obviously the US must do whatever it can to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program. The premise demands the conclusion. Questioning the premise is not even a possibility.

This is exactly how mainstream reportage frames policy debates in a nutshell. Here's a debate on the issue between a couple of official suits with talking heads appended to them:

—The topic today: Should We Bomb Iran. With us today is Frank Hedges and Noel Conman. Frank, when should we start bombing Iran?

—I don't think we can afford to wait. We need to bomb them now.


—I think Frank is wrong. I think we need to wait a little while first.

—There you have it. Thank you, gentlemen.

I also particularly like question 5:

Who should undertake military action against Iran first?
U.S. Israel Neither country

This implies military action is a foregone conclusion, whether or not either or both US and Israel engage in an attack. Someone's going to bomb them first — get used to the idea. The question makes an assumption to frame the way you think about it.

Just for fun I'm going to try my hand at it. Here, then, is my questionnaire modelled after theirs.

Crisis Time: Should We Eliminate BushCo Before They Strike Again, Possibly Bringing About The Armaggedon They Long For?
  1. Do you believe the international community should be working harder to bring Bush and his administration before the International Criminal Court to face charges for crimes against humanity?
    Yes No

  2. Should the international community rely solely on Bush to voluntarily stop his crimes against humanity?
    Yes No

  3. Do you believe Bush poses a greater threat to world peace than Hitler did before WWII?
    Yes No

  4. Should the international community find an extra-judicial way to stop Bush and his administration from pursuing their genocidal policies?
    Yes No

  5. What sort of extra-judicial policy should be pursued?
    Assassination Other

  6. Who did you vote for in the 2004 election?
    Nader Badnarik Other

Hey, you know — it's really easy and fun to come up with these bullshit questionnaires! No wonder there are so many of them.

For the sake of completion when their questionnaire eventually goes away, here are all the questions:

  1. Do you believe U.S. efforts to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program are working? [Working; Not Working]

  2. Should the U.S. rely solely on the U.N. to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program? [Yes; No]

  3. Do you believe Iran poses a greater threat than Saddam Hussein did before the Iraq War? [Yes, greater threat; No, a lesser threat]

  4. Should the U.S. undertake military action against Iran to stop their program? [Yes; No]

  5. Who should undertake military action against Iran first? [U.S.; Israel; Neither country]

  6. Who did you vote for in the 2004 election? [Bush; Kerry; Other]

Note: I was originally going to entitle this post "Crisis Time: Should We Assassinate [you know who]" but I don't have Colbert's cast-iron balls. It also seemed more prudent to censor myself given the enormous capacity to be misunderstood, no less officially investigated. But it would have been a wonderful counter-example to bring the point home...